Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Neutral Zone Continuous Passing/Forechecking


I received this drill from Wally Kozak and thought I would share it with our readers. This is an excellent drill to work with the defensemen to handle the forecheck pressure during a NZ regroup play. It also gives you the opportunity to have your forwards work on the teams NZ forecheck system. The drill is continuous back and forth. After a few rotations you can blow the whistle and have the forwards attack the defensemen 2v2 and then swap in the other defensemen.

NZ Continuous Pass/Forecheck

Click to Download the Drill

Click to Download the Drill

Filed under: coaching, Forecheck, Passing

@DerekSchooley Shares With Us a Defensive Zone Coverage Drill

Robert Morris University head ice hockey coach Derek Schooley sent over a defensive zone coverage drill that works on 1×1, 2×2 and 5×5 skills. This drill is excellent for use on half ice practices as well as full ice practice slots. Every coach needs to work on his teams defensive zone coverage throughout the year and this drill gives us a way to accomplish that goal while working on other defensive skills and keeping the tempo high.

Defensive Zone Coverage Drill


Click to Download the Drills

Click to Download the Drill

Filed under: coaching, Defense, Defense, Drills, Practice, Systems, , , ,

D Under Pressure Half Ice Drill

We all know how important it is to have defensemen who can play under pressure. Many times we run drills that don’t really put the D under any real pressure to make passes and come game time that causes bad decisions and bad passes that can cost games. Here is a drill I use to help my defensemen learn how to compete under pressure. We use this drill to teach them how to communicate with each other and the goaltender and how to handle a hard forecheck. Make sure the D are doing proper shoulder checks while skating hard to retrieve the puck. Also listen to make sure the players are communicating with each other. You can also use this drill to let your forwards practice proper positioning for the forecheck system you use for the forwards. Personally I use this drill just as a way to help the defensemen learn how to play under hard pressure and the goaltender is used just to work on his communication skills with the defensemen, but you can have the offensive players cycle back into the zone after the successful breakout and play 3v2 against the D while the original three forechecking forwards vacate the zone. Either way it’s a great drill to help your defensemen build confidence when playing under pressure.

D-Under Pressure Breakout


Click to Download the Drill

Click to Download the Drill


Filed under: Breakout, coaching, Defense, Forecheck

Offensive Tactics with Chris Campanale

Recently my team was having some trouble consistently creating offense. We have a lot of talented players but they were getting lazy and falling back on old bad habits. Sometimes a coach needs to bring in a new voice to speak to the team about some of the concepts he is trying to teach. Chris Campanale is a local professional player who lives in our area and works out at the facility in our rink. I asked Chris if he would be interested in coming out to practice once a week and working with my team on offensive tactics. Chris was very willing to step up and help the younger players develop their offensive skills.

Chris worked with our players once a week for the past three weeks. In the four games before I invited Chris out to skate with us we scored nine goals and went 2-1-1. In the four games since Chris started working with the players we scored 25 goals and went 3-0-1. Now, that is a major turn around and multiple factors played a roll, but Chris’ fundamental tactics were instrumental in the surge in scoring.

Some of the key points.

  • Shoot  the puck from good areas of the ice
  • Shoot from inside the dots (especially the D)
  • Play in the dirty area in front of the net
  • Talk, Talk, Talk on the ice

Here are some of the drills Chris ran with the team to work on these fundamentals.

1 on 1 Four Times

3 on 2 Down Low

4 Shot Net Front Battle

Dump In 2 on 1

Three Quarter Ice 3 on 2

In addition to the above drills that Chris worked on here are two others from Coach Cronin former Northeastern University head coach and current assistant in Toronto, that develop similar skills.

Creating Offense

Three Rush Concepts

Also don’t forget about teaching cycling concepts in the offensive zone. Here is something I put together last season for the progression of cycling drills.

Cycle Progression Drills

Teaching offense is always a difficult task for a coach. So many factors play a role in a successful offensive attack, but if you work on fundamental skills and tactics the players can begin to incorporate those ideas into their general knowledge and start making better and smarter plays in the offensive zone. The offensive game isn’t black and white, it’s mostly gray and centered around the fundamental idea of read and react. Try working on drills that teach specific parts of offensive zone play and I think you will begin to see an improvement in your teams ability to create offense.

Unfortunately for us Chris leaves this weekend to start training camp with the Bloomington Thunder and won’t be around to continue helping us out. We all wish him the greatest success and look forward to working with him again in the future.


Filed under: coaching, Cycling, Defensemen, Drills, Forwards, Offense, Shooting

“The Beast” Penalty Kill System DVD

I purchased “The Beast” Peanlty Kill System DVD from Championship Productions two weeks ago and have watched it a few times since. My thought was that I would like to see what type of concepts Coach Arena was teaching that would be beneficial to my team. I have to say that if you are looking for some guidance on how to run a PK with your team this DVD will be a major help. Coach Arena goes through the entire system starting with the forecheck and continues through the neutral zone and into the defensive zone. His concept of keeping the 2 on 1 as far from the puck is spot on and if played properly can give your team an excellent chance to be a powerful penalty killing team.

Even though I’ve been coaching for almost thirty years I’m always trying to learn and improve, and I sure this DVD will help anyone who wants to teach his team how to be successful on the penalty kill. Championship Productions does a nice job with their video learning and if you haven’t checked them out yet you should give them a try. I recommend picking up a copy of “The Beast” Penalty Kill System, it’s well worth the small price tag.

On a personal note, after watching the video a few times I had some questions so I searched out Coach Arena and he answered my questions in detail and offered continuing help if I needed it.

Here is a link to the DVD.

The Beast Penalty Kill System

Filed under: coaching, Defense, Defense, Penalty Kill, Systems

Defensive Zone Concepts, Face-Offs and Drills Video

I recently watched a video by Rick Bennett head coach of Union College that describes his approach to defensive zone play. I found the DVD to be a well designed approach to the concepts needed to teach your team the proper approach to playing as a team as well as individual tactics needed to be successful. The video is about 40 minutes long and has a number of drills that you can use to work on your teams approach to playing defense.

Coach Bennett also utilizes his goalie coach to talk about what the goaltender should be doing during the play to stay involved and to communicate with his teammates. I think this is a very well spent $29.99. I suggest if you have questions about defensive zone play you should buy this DVD and learn what Coach Bennett is teaching.

On a personal note, after watching the DVD I had a few questions and I emailed Coach Bennett with those questions and within a few hours he replied with answers and an offer to speak with him directly. How often do you get the chance to interact with a DI head coach? I suggest you buy this video and give it a good look.

Here is a link to the website where you can purchase the DVD.

Defensive Zone Concepts DVD


Filed under: coaching, Defense, Defense, Systems

Neutral Zone Regroup Drills

Every coach has their own style of play through the neutral zone along with how they want their team to work a regroup. Below are a few drills that you can use to work on your teams NZ play along with a simple document on how to run two styles of NZ regroup. Hope these drills can be helpful.

NZ Regroup Philosophy
Hinge Drill
Hinge with Regroup Passing
D Shot with Hinge
2 on 1 with Pressure
3 Shot Quick-Up
Post-Up 2×0
Quick Up Shooting
St Johns Shooting
Tactical Shooting


Filed under: coaching, Defense, Drills, Offense, Systems

Coach Pooley of Notre Dame Offers Offensive Drills

Paul Pooley is the former head coach at Division I Providence college and now associate head coach at Notre Dame University. Coach Pooley offers us a few drills on building offensive attack options as you enter the zone to maximize scoring chances. These drills work on attack options that can be created when your players are skating hard and thinking about proper positioning entering the zone. Each drill is designed to work on different parts of the offensive attack. Hope you find these helpful.

3 on 0 Loose / Tight Gap
Tight Area 2 on 1
3 Quarter Ice 3 on 2
3 on 1 Transition To 4 on 2
3 on 1 Transition To 4 on 3


Keys to Scoring


  1. Player without the puck makes the play work as much as the player with the puck.
  2. You may not score on the first shot so attack the net and look for rebounds.
  3. Hit the net with your shots to increase your chances of scoring.
  4. Shoot for a rebound if a shot to score is unavailable.
  5. Scoring goals is hard work so be ready to work hard.




Filed under: coaching, Offense, Systems

Coach Nielsen Interviewed by Copper and Blue Writer Derek Zona (Edmonton Oilers)

Last week Derek contacted me to get my opinion on running the power play from behind the net like Gretzky used to do. If you are interested, here is the link to the article he wrote.

Behind The Net Power Play Tactics With Coach Bob Nielsen




Filed under: coaching, Power Play

Cycling the Puck for Offensive Success

We all know the importance of “cycling” the puck in today’s game. One of the issues with coaching is trying to get your players to understand the concept and effectively incorporate it into the action. One of the problems with players who aren’t adept at cycling the puck is that once they start to learn its proper use they forget to attack the net, instead theyjust continue to cycle the puck!

I’ve put together a progression of drills with the help of many coaches to help you work on the teaching points of cycling the puck. The bottom line is that cycling is used to create scoring chances by confusing the defensive team and causing them to open seams in their defense that your team can exploit for scoring chances. Make sure your players understand that the ultimate goal of cycling the puck is to get scoring chances……..not to look good moving the puck through the corners. Teach them to “read” the defensive positioning and take advantage of the opening that a good cycle will create.

These drills work off the idea of a “dead zone” in the corners of the offensive zone where the defensive team is normally not covering. It also uses the idea of “net presence” with the secondary forward to make sure you have players in good position to execute the cycle as well as create traffic in front of the goaltender.

A good cycle is important to your overall offensive zone philosophy, but doesn’t have to be a play that is executed every time you are in the offensive zone. Once you teach your players how to cycle the puck you should begin to see them incorporate it at different times throughout games. Cycling is a concept that needs to be reinforced throughout the season so the players can first understand the concept and then begin to incorporate it into their offensive zone play. Keep in mind that being a good coach means getting your players ready to advance to higher levels of play and being properly prepared.

Good luck and we hope these drills enable you to teach your players the art of cycling the puck in the offensive zone.

Cycle Progression Drills







Filed under: coaching, Cycling, Offense



Post Categories

%d bloggers like this: